tv [untitled] May 15, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
so my point is that i never was witness to and don't believe that anything that was ever a discussion that said now tony if you do this and you do this and you do this, my papers will back you. it just never happened. and i also think, as i've gone through some of the issues that tony blair went through these and the government went through these issues on their merits. >> okay. now i come to the issue of an implied tradeoff. paragraph 13 of your statement. you deal there with the sun in 1997. before i come to that, do you agree with mr. price's view, this is mr. lawrence price, that plans to limit cross media ownership in a way which would have restricted murdoch's empire
had been quietly dropped by the labor party within six months of blair's visit to australia in 1995? >> we changed the policy. we changed the position. >> noisily dropped then. >> well, i think lance was trying to kind of feed into and play up to the idea of some sort of conspiracy. there was none. tony blair wasn't terribly keen on the cross -- the cross media policy we had up until then. i set out in my statement what his general position was with regard to cross media ownership. >> so the atribution of cause and effect, which mr. price sees in the sequence of events you don't believe is correct? >> no, i don't. >> do you have any discussions with mr. blair about the change in cross media ownership policy? >> i must have done. must have done. >> did he mention in any way the
impact the change might have or more exactly the existing policy would have had on the murdoch press? >> not that i specifically recall, but it would certainly have been a factor. it would have been a factor. >> so the change in policy was beneficial to the murdoch press, and that was part of the thinking, was it? >> no, what i mean by -- a part of his thinking would be, in any policy making process, part of your thinking will be about how this will be perceived, written up and so forth. but tony blair's view on cross media ownership was that he was not in favor of changes in the position on cross media ownership that would lead to the closure of titles. he was in favor of trying to broaden the market and open up the market to new media owners.
so it was a principle policy position that just happened to differ from the one we'd held when neil and -- was leader of the labor party. >> okay. can i deal with the sun piece in 1997 which you refer to in paragraph 13. i think we saw this with mr. murdoch himself. the actual piece which mr. blair wrote shortly before the 1997 election. was in march 1997. it was made clear to me by the editor that if mr. blair were to emphasize the point that there would be no entry into the euro without a specific referendum on the, that he understood people's fears about so-called european superstate. it was likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw before mr.
murdoch agreed the paper would back labor. you describe that as purely a question of rhetoric. but wasn't that specifically a matter of policy or at least something which mr. blair did which he would not otherwise have perhaps wanted to do? >> no. in terms of -- the policy was already set. the policy was set. and we did have a discussion. i remember we did have a discussion about whether it was sensible to do this piece at that time. and as i say, i go on to say that it was fantastically irritating on one level. we have to go through these kind of routines. we'd be daft not to try it. i don't think we did change policy. i will admit to being a little queasy about the -- i think the headline was why i love the pound. and it was -- so i was a little queasy about that. i will be honest about that. but i don't think on policy
anything was ever traded with rupert murdoch or with any other media owner. so there's an example of where the sun, mass selling newspaper, coming up to an election campaign is giving us half a page to set out our issue which is important, probably more important to the paper than it is to their lereaders. and we took that opportunity. i think it would have been crazy not to. >> you have to remind me, mr. campbell. was it part of the labor party manifesto in 1997 that there would be a referendum before the united kingdom entered the euro? >> yeah it was -- i think i'm right in saying it was one of the five pledges. >> i'm not saying this is ancient history because it isn't. it is 15 years ago and we're trying to remember. the article in the sun which i think was in mid-march 1997, that, obviously, post dated the
11-party manifesto, did it? >> i can't remember where we are. by this time, everybody knew we were committed to referendum. i'm pretty sure of that. >> so even if the manifesto had not been published, it would have been written six weeks or so before the general election? because we know the election was the 1st of may in '97. >> i'd have to go back and check exactly what was in the manifesto and when that was -- the manifesto would be published after this. certainly the campaign hadn't been announced. but i automatic-- i don't think announcing anything new in this piece at all. >> okay. >> so you were to characterize what happened as perhaps slightly irritating. if not causing a degree of discomfort. but amounting to no more than rhetoric because it didn't amount to policy change.
>> can i ask you please about -- >> can i just -- can i say there that there may well have been positions, situations with either relation to the sun or other newspapers where the prime minister would give in to use articles of speech where he might set up policy changes and pass any policy change you are trying to get it communicated through the press. i'm making a point about this one, that this is an area where i say we were meeting them with rhetoric and it didn't. therefore, there was no sense of any trade-off implied or unimplied. >> the media set issue -- >> yep. >> troubled mr. murdoch. and it's clear that mr. prody made the call at the end of the day. can i just ask you about one entry in your diary, volume two, the 1st of april 1998.
page 338. >> yeah. he said he didn't fear them coming at him about me, but about the relationship with murdoch. political knives were out for you at that time, weren't they? >> they were. >> i'm not sure this inquiry need go into that. we're more concerned with the underlying point. and then you say, and he, that's mr. blair, didn't fancy a sustained set of questions about whether murdoch lobbied him. >> yeah. >> so that's a paraphrase of the conversation you had with mr. blair, is it? >> yeah. >> why didn't he fancy such a sustained set of questions? >> because the -- i think i've quoted in my statement the --
what i said at the briefing on this. i said in a number ten briefing, the conversation with prody covered a range of issues. it had been agreed neither side would brief on it. this had been honored. the ft should not use an anonymous italian official to stand up a story that was wrong. of course, if asked, we would always say the pm spoke up for british firms. it would be real odd if he was the pm of britain and did not. this did not stand up the story and talk about the prevention in this way was simply wrong. it did lead to a considerable frenzy this one. and i think we possibly could have handled it differently. and the call from prody was not about this. was about something completely different, and prody asked for us not to brief on it. the ft then ran this story, and i refused to accept that this was intervention as they were presenting it. and what -- i think what tony
blair is saying is that he was worried, actually, that that was -- standing up in the house of commons, sustained set of questions about why is this not intervention? i think he found that difficult. i've said in my statement, i was less concerned because i felt my statement it would be odd if the prime minister did not stand up for companies. in the briefing, journalists pointed out that my statement did not amount to full denial to which i responded i was not adding to the statement. and it's true. it was not a full denial. >> maybe mr. blair's concern was based on how all this appeared. >> by then it was a full-blown 24 carat frenzy. and it's one of those -- it's tricky because rupert murdoch had mentioned this company to the prime minister. and the prime minister, as i recall, we did have a discussion
about whether there was anything wrong with him raising it. and then he didn't raise it until this another this phone call came along and he mentioned it and prody said to the words of the effect that murdoch is waf wasting his time and i don't think it went any further. >> but the origin of all of this kerfuffle was an express request by mr. murdoch, presumably made referring to the prime minister to intervene in a certain way. >> no, i don't think -- he was trying to establish whether words to the effect he was wasting his time trying to get into the italian marketplace. >> but even if it wasn't to intervene in a way which would necessarily produce direct results, at least to ascertain how the italian marketplace looked, should he put his toe in the water. that's what it amounted to, wasn't it? >> i wasn't privy to the call that he had and nor until this
story blew up was i privy to the call with mr. prody. but i stood on that line for over several pretty lengthy briefings that i will refuse to accept that was an intervention the way it was being presented by the "financial times." that's where the delft came in because the press said it was an intervention, and i can see why. but, you know, sometimes these situations, you hold a line and that's what we did. and in the end, nothing came of it. >> you would have been an intervention if mr. murdoch was seeking an express regulatory favor, which clearly he wasn't. but he was seeking information from the italians, wasn't he? >> i mean, i know you're going to be seeing mr. blair and, you know, you'll be able to ask him because he had the conversation. my sense of it would be that he's simply saying, i'm interested in this italian company. i'm -- do you think i'm wasting my time? and i don't think there's anything more than that.
>> the reference to helping a british company was not quite accurate since we are talking about one of mr. murdoch's -- he'd set up his own italian company for the intervention or looking back at news corp. which is -- >> i accept that. but i think more accurately, this is not a transcript. it's an account of the briefing. we're talking about companies with british interests. >> the other area we need to look at, and you cover it in paragraph 15 of your statement, his media policy generally. you do say in the third sentence of paragraph 15, ironically, the only area where i believe we may have fallen out of this relates to the area of the press itself. and then you refer to the current government. so are you suggesting that through fear of a hostile
reaction, possibly even attacks, the labor government 1997 and 2010 were shy of taking on the press and bringing in necessary press performance in terms of regulation in is that the thesis which you say might have some validity? >> i wouldn't date it as far back at 1997, but i think as time wore on, i think a view developed generally in government, certainly with the prime minister and other senior ministers that there was a real problem. and i think that if -- i certainly, as i say in my statement, was advancing the case. if you think it's a real problem, then we should do something about it. and part of the thinking is to why not to do something about it? i think there were two main reasons. one was the one that the prime minister is talked about this
before. that actually the public just wouldn't understand because one of the lines being run at us by the press is we had them all in our pocket. not true, but that's one of the kind of lines that was run against. the public are going to be confused as to why we're suddenly saying this is a problem. and the second thing is the public had elected us to do all sorts of things. press regulation was not one of them. so that was the points of principle. i think there was a political point of pragmatism that tony blair would have taken the view that it was not politically sensible. and, you know, it's no secret this was one of the few things we argued about. we argued about it over several years. >> we can quite see, mr. campbell, if we go back to 1997, which, of course, was before the death of princess diana, that included anything in the labor party manifesto which would commit that government press regulation -- regulatory reform, might have been a bit ambitious.
others may comment on that. by the time we get to 2001 and in particular, 2005, there was a possibility, wasn't there, to include it within the government's legislative program, is that correct? >> well, there was always the possibility. as to whether there was any likelihood, i suspect there wasn't. but some of us were arguing that there should have been. >> and when you refer to concerns about what the media culture was, that's the second sentence of paragraph 16. >> yeah. >> can we be clear what the analysis is? because it may be set to fall in two parts. there's one, the political analysis which is the culture of negativity, the fusion of news and comment. the press driving the news agenda. all the matters which i know are deep interest and concern to you. can we put them sort of a one
side and then the wider concerns about the culture practiced and ethics of the press, harassment, intrusion, breach of privacy. i know the two concerns overlap to some extent. but they are more concerned with the interests of individuals. was your analysis, which is what you referred to on the third line, did it embrace both those concerns, or any one of those concerns? >> both of them. and i think actually my first witness statement i set out when i talk about a summary of the debit side. news values in which -- whether something is true counts for whether it's t makes a good story. in which the weight given to coverage is not in proportion to the significance of the news matter being reported but whether it fits the agenda of the outlet. lack of anything approaching transparency with respect to the organization. and ineffectual regulation.
and a culture dominated by the media themselves which allows inaccuracies, disfort yorngs unfairness, invasion of privacy and dubious practices and a culture in which any attempt to question or check the role of the media is met with denunciations, the motives of those concerned and instant claims that freedom of speech is under threat. some are what i mean by the -- by the culture, i suppose i would throw in there the culture of celebrity. >> yes, you -- it's fair that your first statement covers those matters. and you are not identifying, are you, a particular section of the press or are you? >> no, i think the culture, i think it's where the center of gravity within the culture has moved to. so i think it covers the broadcasters. it covers the broad sheets and the tabloids as well. just to different varying degrees. >> and we know it's mr. mandelson's view. we've provided for you the piece
in the guardian which you wrote in july of last year. it's under tab seven. >> yeah. >> you said the truth is, no issue of power to your principle was involved. we simply chose to be coward because we are too fearful to do otherwise. then he said, david cameron took up by the time tony blair and gordon brown left off. ignoring what happened after may 2010, would you agree with mandelson's view, we simply chose to be coward? >> i agree with it to some extent. i mean, he said there were no -- there was no issue of principle or priority. i think there were issues of principle and priority which i referred to a moment ago. but i do accept that part of the thinking of the prime minister and some of his colleagues was that to take on the whole of the press at the time when most of the public thought we got a pretty good deal was politically not very sensible.
>> it might have been difficult to have approached this on a cross-party basis at any time between 1997 and certainly 201. unless you were to identify a short window of opportunity which opened after the tragic death of princess diana. is that right? >> i think it would have been impossible to get a cross-party agreement on slide. >> what about that short window of opportunity? >> i'm not sure there really was one. i think that the -- i think interestingly, from chris mullins' diaries as well, he was of the view of short window of opportunity was the same day straight after the election. i think that would have been very difficult for obvious reasons. i don't think there was, even with all the focus there was
upon the conduct of the media post diana's death, i don't think there was that political or public appetite. this inquiry is only happening because of the specific set of issues that led to it. these cultural issues have been underlying it for some time. both the media and politics have not really faced up to that. >> do you detect an appetite now to do that? >> no. if i'm being frank. i thought that -- i thought the michael grove speech to the parliamentary press gallery was part of a political strategy. i don't think that david cameron particularly wants to have to deal with this, i don't think he wants to set up the inquiry. he had to do it in the end. i think he'll be in a very -- i think it will be very difficult for him not to go along with whatever recommendations or at least a very large part of the
recommendations, the inquiry produces. but i don't think there is much of an appetite. i hope there is some appetite for the sort of cross-party approach you were talking about with augusta o'donnell earlier. but i wouldn't rule out the possibility of the politicians looking to see how this might affect their position vis-a-vis the next election. i would think there's some appetite for change but i wouldn't overstate it. i think there's quite a big appetite for the people who are no longer there. >> the general topic of the form of the press, in particular regulation, mr. powell, again
page 206 -- see whether this accords with your recollection. we first discussed how we could remedy the failed relationship between the media and failed politics in 2002. in creating the right of reply that exists in other countries. do you recall that? >> i do. >> is he broadly speaking correct about the discussions you were having internally? >> yes. >> then he says in 2003, i -- mr. powell -- commissioned ed richards in the policy unit to start working on a commission, limits on ownership and privacy law. do you recall that? >> i do. >> we discussed the issue back and forth the next two years but tony never felt the moment was right to speak out, in part because the press would always have the last word, as it was, they would report -- it was they who would report and interpret what he said. does that correctly summarize it?
>> yes. >> in 2006, he, mr. blair, now told me he would consider putting surprise legislation in the queen's speech on the subject, but he didn't. >> uh-huh. >> when he finally did make a speech on the media in 2007, that's the famous fell beast speech of june 2007. perhaps didn't receive the attention it deserved. mr. powell says it was too late. is that a fair sort of prospectus of what was happening? >> i think as i said in my witness statement, political leaders, even when they're the prime minister, even when they're in a very powerful position as tony blair was for most parts of his premiership, you do have to take accounts of the views of your senior colleagues. and there was no real appetite within the government, i think with the possible exception -- i was arguing on this track for some time. john prescott to some extent
was. but it wasn't an issue on which the prime minister was feeling huge pressure. and as i said in the statement, there were large number of issues on which he was feeling huge pressure. and i think the other thing to bear in mind is that it's not unreasonable for politicians to take account of political factors. like the fact that if he had gone down this road, the conservative opposition would have been perfectly entitled then to use that to get much better sense of support from the press. and there was also the whole issue of the -- many of those books had gone into the sometimes troubled relationship with gordon brown. that would have been a factor too. >> of what became the communications act of 2003? that's obviously an extremely complicated piece of
legislation. but it passed through parliament at a time when you were still in post, as it were, before your retirement. >> yeah. but i don't -- i don't recall being involved to a huge extent in the detail of policy discussion. and i do remember tester jewell, i believe secretary of state at the time, when she took the job, wanting it to be very, very clear she was going to be in charge of that process. and i do also remember her wanting to be absolutely clear that she wasn't, as it were, inheriting any kind of implied or unimplied deals with anybody in the media empire. so i don't know that -- i'm sure tess will be able to speak for herself but i do remember that. >> to be clear about, that she was concerned that as part of the inheritance, there might have been some sort of deal, as you say, expressed or implied?
she wanted to be sure that there wasn't such a deal. did she have conversations with you about it or conversations which were in your hearing? >> i think she had conversations both with -- most important with tony blair, but also -- i talked to tess as well at that time. >> to be blunt about it, was she concerned to find out whether a deal had been done with mr. murdoch? >> yeah. she just wanted to be absolutely sure that she was not, as it were, going into a policy area where a conclusion had already been reached based upon whatever. so -- and tony blair was unable to give her that assurance. >> in your hearing? >> well, i know that he did.nab to give her that assurance. >> in your hearing? >> well, i know that he did.ablo give her that assurance. >> in your hearing? >> well, i know that he did. >> one key issue in relation to that act would be the decision
to remove the restrictions on foreign media ownership. is that something that you were alive to? >> no, i don't -- im, although i was in charge of tony blair's media strategy, media relations, i was not -- i didn't see myself as a significant voice wind the media policy debate and i don't -- i can't remember what else was going on at that time. i don't remember being too involved in the policy discussions, in the communications on that. >> when the bill was going through the lords, it encountered some difficulty. and i think david putnam, lord putnam, was at the center of the opposition to it. did you have any discussions with him about that? >> i can't remember. i don't think so. but i may have done, i may have done. i can remember -- i mean, what
months in 2003 are we talking about, do you know? >> i think this may have been in -- it would have been in early 2003 as it was passing through the lords. >> right. >> it took some considerable time for this act to become law. >> it's fair to say that after september 11th the year before, i was very, very primarily engaged in foreign policy. i do remember a conversation with david putnam about something else which was an education policy issue and he may have raised it. i couldn't -- i can't guarantee that. i was aware of his views, though. i think he was expressing them publicly. >> is there anything further you can help us with the passage of that act? >> no. >> particularly the concessions which were made to the law at the end of the day? >> no. >> go back please to paragraphs 51 to 5of